Tackling Capacity Building: PART ONE

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Jamie Raynor, Vice Chancellor for Advancement, Western Carolina University

Nelda Siemion, Director of Philanthropy for The Nature Conservancy, NC Chapter

Episode Notes:

Clare Jordan hosts guests: Jamie and Nelda:

Addressing the “hard questions” and challenges all development programs face in building capacity:

  • Complexity of fitting into a larger entity and messaging that well for donors (as a chapter of national and worldwide nonprofit or members of a university system)
  • Building a development staff team
  • Database access and usage to develop a strong prospect list

Acknowledging weaknesses: donor database; donor relations; working within a complex organization

Understanding of the importance and value of a culture of philanthropy and development work in general

Focus on staffing:

  • Campaign allows for educational and training opportunities about mission and priorities for both staff and board
  • Each new recruit brings new talent, abilities, and new opportunities
  • Importance of creativity re. budget, work-life balance, work location, experience requirements
  • Creating motivational documents for the retention of staff, such as building metrics for gift officers
  • Staff review process & keeping staff motivated

“Refocus” moments from positive donor visits

Key Takeaways on Capacity Building:

Campaigns make your development team stronger as you organize around priorities.

Be willing to ask how well you know your donors, and address it if you don’t know them as well as you thought.

Growth is slow when you do it well.

Creativity is key in recruitment and retention of staff.

Be flexible while still being in the relationship business.

Sharing your passion for mission is a critical part of soliciting a gift (without actually asking).

“I sometimes wish our mission statements included philanthropy… in that it is part of our mission.”

Each new hire brings an opportunity for new talent.

“The mission of our work is clearly what drives the longevity of our staff.” – Campaign can be an opportunity to promote staff and build longevity.

There is a big difference between someone who has the mentality of this is a “job” (motivated by salary) and the mentality of this is a “profession” (motivated by mission).

Read thank you notes from donors or scholarship recipients aloud in staff meetings.

Encourage staff to block time for important data entry – both qualitative (stories) and quantitative (data).

We must do both high tech and high touch really well.

Set reasonable goals for database usage and get each stage right before moving to the next stage.

People who do data work are unsung heroes.

Know your audience as you develop your writing style (and length).

“You can overcommunicate to the point that it is noise.”

Virtual tours in an intimate group create conversations brings places alive and helps donors feel heard and included

True generosity includes the gift of time.

Philanthropy translates to mean “love of humanity.”


Jamie Raynor

As a higher education professional for over 20 years, Jamie gained early experience in academic affairs for several years before turning her focus and profession to higher education development and advancement initiatives. She serves as the vice chancellor for WCU’s Division of Advancement overseeing 25 staff members in four units: the Vice Chancellor’s Office, Advancement Services, Engagement, and Development. In this role, she serves on the Chancellor’s Executive Council, manages a portfolio of corporations, foundations, and individuals to secure leadership, major and planned gifts, and guides the direction of WCU’s comprehensive campaign working with the WCU Foundation Board of Directors and the WCU Campaign Steering Committee.

Jamie joined WCU in 2015 as a director of development for the College of Engineering and Technology, the College of Education and Allied Professions and the Brinson Honors College before moving to the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Development position in 2017. She saw the Lead the Way campaign through its the silent phase, public launch and conclusion, which exceeded its $60 million goal. She was appointed as the Vice Chancellor for Advancement in 2021 after serving in an interim role for two years.

Prior to her arrival at WCU, Jamie served as Director of Annual Giving at Armstrong State University (now Georgia Southern –Armstrong Campus) in Savannah, Georgia and as Director of Development for the Colorado Mountain College Foundation in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Her 20-year career in higher education began with a nine-year stint her alma mater, the University of South Carolina-Aiken, where her roles included directing alumni relations and the university’s annual fund.

Jamie completed doctoral coursework in higher education administration from the University of South Carolina, and holds a master’s degree in educational technology from USC-Aiken and a bachelor’s degree in English from USC-Aiken. She is active in her Sundrops community in Cullowhee, NC where she resides with her husband, Brent, and two daughters, Suzannah (15) and Samantha (7).

Western Carolina University

Nelda Siemion

Nelda Siemion is Director of Philanthropy, North Carolina Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is the largest and among the most effective and wide-reaching global environmental organizations in the world with more than one million members in more than 70 countries and all 50 US states. Its mission is to conserve the lands and waters upon which all life depends. Since 1951, the Conservancy has protected more than 125 million acres of land. In North Carolina, TNC has protected over 720,000 acres with more than 600,000 acres now in the public domain as part of state and national parks, wildlife refuges and game lands. TNC is conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale and helping to make cities and communities more sustainable. Bi-partisan and guided by science, TNC promotes and implements nature-based solutions to the climate crisis that benefit our forests, farmlands, floodplains and wetlands, rivers and marine habitats with strategies that protect wildlife, plant life and all humanity.

Nelda leads a team of fundraisers in North Carolina who work closely with chapter scientists and conservationists and with the world office of TNC to engage board and volunteer leadership and donors in supporting the Conservancy’s mission and priorities. Previously, she led fundraising programs and teams for several preeminent hospitals and academic medical centers and for a leading business school. She has a master’s degree in public administration/nonprofit management. She and her husband are avid hikers and bird watchers.

The Nature Conservancy – NC Chapter

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